If voters had decided Best New Artist in the weeks following the release of Meghan Trainor's debut, Title, the innocuous blond pop star would have been an easy bet. With four Top 20 singles and an all-time best seller in “All About That Bass,” Trainor possessed the mainstream success and general likability synonymous with this category. In recent months, however, Trainor's star has waned (marred by feminist critiques of both “All About that Bass” and “Dear Future Husband”), leaving room for a surprise victor.
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Pixar's Inside Out is going to win the Oscar, and more or less deserves it. With that out of the way, let's at least take a moment to tip our hat to the Academy for generating a slate that not only managed to avoid any movie with a number in its title, but also including only one entirely computer-animated film. Whether it's evidence of a crisis of conscience in the industry or just a transitory blip in the space-time continuum, it's worth noting that the Annie Awards, whose love affair with Pixar seemingly ended with Up, just went ham for Inside Out, delivering it a robust 10 awards. Then again, maybe it's simply a question of quality outing the competition, given Inside Out slayed the studio's other heavily nominated 2015 effort,
The Land Before Time The Good Dinosaur, and Don Hertzfeldt's stunning World of Tomorrow pushed past Sanjay's Super Team for a surprise win (an outcome we don't see Oscar replicating, much as we'd like to).
Tonight's episode of The X-Files, “Home Again,” pivots on two narratives, one of which is promising and occasionally quite chilling. The first, which has social reverberations that suggest a fusion of Candyman and Land of the Dead, follows a group of bureaucrats and politicians in Philadelphia as they're brutally murdered by a large, looming, albino entity that resembles the “Slender Man” of online urban legend, who leaves no footprints and who drips pus and maggots everywhere he goes, though his telltale signature is a used Band-Aid that's left on the scene of every crime, which strangely leaves no discernable genetic material. A homeless person calls this creature the “Band-Aid Nose Man” (John DeSantis), saying this name with an impression of awe that subtly affirms this avenger as a possible champion of the disenfranchised.
Beginning tomorrow, we're predicting the winners in the so-called Big Four categories at the 58th Annual Grammy Awards, airing Monday, September 15th on CBS. Kendrick Lamar is nominated for a whopping 11 awards, besting Eminem for the rapper with the single most nods in one night, and second only to Michael Jackson, who was nominated for 12 awards back in 1984. Of course, Lamar will have to compete with Taylor Swift, Alabama Shakes (pictured above), Kanye West, and more. We're kicking things off with our picks in some of the smaller genre categories, including the usual suspects—dance, rock, R&B, and rap—as well as musical theater (the opening number from hip-hop-infused frontrunner Hamilton will be broadcast live from Broadway during the show). Keep an eye on our predictions all this week to see how we think things will shake out!
Sony Pictures Classics
We could make a case for Ciro Guerra's visually ravishing Embrace of the Serpent, a black-and-white allegory of paradise lost shrouded in the dark shadows of colonialism, about two white scientists and their 40-year relationship to an Amazonian shaman, but you would laugh at us. Or Tobias Lindholm's schematic but well-acted A War, for how one man's frenzied nosedive into the muck of war is put under a court of law's vigilant microscope, except it rarely strikes the overwrought motions that are typically anointed here. Two coming-of-age films set in the Arab world, Theeb and Mustang, may benefit from stoking voters' righteous emotions, but then we remind ourselves of Son of Saul's existence here and even Mustang's fairy-tale-like exhibition of five sisters literally and figuratively imprisoned by Islamic orthodoxy begins to feel like a hard sell.
Beyoncé is many things, but subtle isn't one of them. “Stop shooting us,” reads graffiti on a wall in the music video for the R&B singer's new single, “Formation,” intercut with scenes of a boy in a black hoodie facing off against a line of riot police with nothing but his dance moves. But the clip, directed by Melina Matsoukas, is much more than simply an audio-visual manifestation of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Doubling as a tribute to New Orleans, the video opens with a pointed shot of Beyoncé standing atop a New Orleans Police Department car submerged in floodwater, and it dips even further back into our country's racially charged history to ask, via a fake newspaper titled The Truth, “What is the real legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and why was a revolutionary recast as an acceptable Negro leader?”
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
The intensity of Oscar's love for The Revenant and Mad Max: Fury Road is most keenly felt here. Not that either film is undeserving of its nomination. Quite the opposite in the case of the latter's Jenny Beavan, who after earning nine nominations and one win for hemming and lacing and draping stiff-lipped Brits in Merchant-Ivory period films and their descendants (Sense and Sensibility, The King's Speech), utterly rebranded herself with a tour-de-force KISS tribute-band roadshow mash-up of Lawrence of Arabia, The Last of the Mohicans, and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. The audacious playfulness of her work, though, faces the same disadvantage that Jacqueline West's mangy, desiccated duds in The Revenant's do as well. Oscar flirts with leather like a curious, submissive pup-in-waiting, but almost always prefers to slip into something a bit more comfortable when he heads home for the night. It's why the instantly iconic looks worn by Angelina Jolie in Maleficent fell short last year despite the category's otherwise decent track record for rewardingly queenly fantasies.
Jack Fisk's résumé boggles the mind. The production designer met his wife, Sissy Spacek, on the set of Badlands in 1972, and since then has worked on every single Terrence Malick film. (Other credits include Brian De Palma's Carrie, David Lynch's Mulholland Drive, and Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master.) His participation in The Revenant was perhaps inevitable, given how closely he's worked with Emmanuel Lubezki in the last decade, and to the film's credit, among the few things that aren't flattened into symbolic gruel by Alejandro González Iñárritu's torturously somber aesthetics is the astonishingly tactile quality of Fisk's production work.
Will voters who secretly agree with the eternally crusty Charlotte Rampling's tempest-in-a-teapot comments about the purported reverse racism of #OscarsSoWhite feel like tempting fate this year? Will those who don't even care one way or the other about her performance throw her a secret vote in solidarity? She quickly recanted her comments, saying she was misinterpreted, but this is one year no genies will easily go back into their bottles. It doesn't matter matter how great her performance may be in Andrew Haigh's patient 45 Years. Her impatient retraction, made as Academy members are publicly sighing their collective exasperation over being called out, simply felt unconvincing. Rampling's firm, tony demeanor on and off screen, compounded by almost exclusively highbrow critics' enthusiasm in her favor, was probably never going to move the needle much for an AMPAS still struggling to reassure the public they're in touch with the times. But sticking to her guns may have given the longshot her best chance.
The false narrative advanced by 20th Century Fox and its multi-million-dollar Oscar publicity strategy that The Revenant was made at a great cost to the physical well-being of many is one that has, throughout this awards season, paid dividends, and will continue to do so in at least a number of Oscar categories. But the unfortunate side effect of convincing audiences that Alejandro González Iñárritu and his cast and crew, especially Leonardo Dicaprio, almost died for their art in sub-frozen weather will likely, and ironically, work against the film in the category where its most worthy of acclaim, as it may sufficiently cast doubt about whether The Revenant's pageant of chaffed skin, frizzy hair, and frozen nose snot can entirely be attributed to makeup artists Siân Grigg, Duncan Jarman, and Robert Pandini.